A little more than a decade ago, Steven Spielberg told this reporter that his upcoming film, “Schindler’s List,” would be a sure money loser.
Not too many prophecies have been this wrong.
Millions of people saw the filmmaker’s three-hour-plus, black-and-white movie about a German businessman who saved 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. The film become a prize-laden, worldwide cultural phenomenon.
Now Spielberg is marking the 10th anniversary of “Schindler’s List” with a new project.
This week, he launched the release of the film on DVD in the United States, to be followed by distribution in 50 countries.
Besides the movie, the DVD will include “Voices from the List,” a 77-minute documentary of testimonies from actual Schindler survivors, and a behind-the-scenes tour, guided by Spielberg, of his Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.
The Shoah Foundation, also 10 years old, is now processing the videotaped testimonies of some 52,000 survivors, liberators and other eyewitnesses of the Holocaust. The total collection runs to about 120,000 hours, or 14 years, of round-the-clock viewing and will stand as a permanent historical and educational archive.
Billboard magazine is predicting strong demand for the DVD, partially — and ironically — fueled by Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of the Christ,” which has revived public debate on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
To mark the anniversaries of “Schindler’s List” and the Shoah Foundation, Spielberg hosted a reunion last week of some of the film’s actors and creators, survivors who were depicted in the movie, and high school students who are learning about tolerance through the foundation’s outreach.
Covered by more than 100 American and foreign reporters, the anniversary celebration — and the accompanying hugs and tears — proved that the emotional impact of making and seeing the film hardly had diminished during the intervening decade.
Spielberg himself testified that “Schindler’s List” had changed his life.
“It led me to find my faith and my soul,” he said.
One historical aspect still missing is the testimony of the Holocaust perpetrators, said Ben Kingsley, who played Oskar Schindler’s Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern.
“I still hope to see the time when some of the murderers will speak to the camera,” he said.
Ralph Fiennes, who portrayed SS commandant Amon Goeth, recalled that during the shooting of the film in Krakow, a Jewish cafe owner invited the actors inside.
“I looked at the man and I looked at my SS uniform, and I just couldn’t go in,” Fiennes said.
A 13-year-old boy who is black who had heard a survivor speak to his class said, “This has given me a reference point in my life.”
The DVD sells for $26.98. A collector’s gift set includes a book of photographs from “Schindler’s List” and the movie soundtrack, featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.
Two additional DVDs are being issued separately. “Giving Voice” shows students meeting with survivors and documenting their own experiences with intolerance. “Broken Silence” is a collection of five films about the Holocaust from Argentina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia.
For information about the Shoah Foundation, visit www.vhf.org.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.